HOW READY IS AFRICA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY FOR THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
(By Sam Dindi 12th February 2018)
(Picture by Njeri Kaburu vis Sam Dindi)
Nature based tourism covers all experiences centered on wildlife and natural environments. A survey by UNWTO confirmed that wildlife watching is a very important segment of tourism for most African countries, representing 80% of the total annual trip sales to Africa for the participating tour operators, with that share only increasing. Climate change threatens to erode these gains on the African continent by altering natural ecosystem and loss of biodiversity with projections estimating that climate change will lead to an equivalent of 2 percent to 4 percent annual loss in GDP in the region by 2040.
The ongoing drought in Kenya has forced elephants out of Amboseli National park in search of pasture in private farms in Kajiado County. This escalated the on-going human-wildlife conflict that resulted to death of two Elephants. Thirty Hippos were killed by sunburn in Mkunumbi and Lake Kenyatta in Lamu County. In Volcano National Park, Rwanda, drought affected the germination of bamboo shoots which form a major diet of Mountain-gorillas. It reduced water supply down the valley forcing the host community to invade the Mountain gorilla’s habitat in search of water and food. Ten zebras and two warthogs died due to thirst in Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda and in Ruaha National Park Tanzania’s largest National Park 3000 fish were found suffocated after River Ruaha dried up.
Re-current heavy rains led to flooding of Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya causing Flamingoes to flee the flooded lake. This was because water salinity reduced affecting the growth of the blue-green algae which is flamingoes’ main food. An increase in global temperatures resulted to rise of sea temperatures leading to El-nino that caused coral bleaching in Misali and Tutia reefs in Pemba Island where it affected 90% of the reefs. Increasing temperatures have also ensued to less snow accumulation leading to thawing of glaciers in Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda.
In Africa there are individual tourism climate adaptations programmes like the solar powered boreholes in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe that are pumping water to 8,000 elephants and nearly other 10,000 wild animals. Zambia is constructing its first climate resilient roads that will make it easier to access Kafue National park and reduce flooding by planting trees in the catchment areas. A coral restoration technique in Seychelles involving growing coral larvae in seeding larvae and later sowing has successfully sowed 50,000 pieces of corals an area covering 45M by 90M. Tanzania Government is to build an ice data research center on Mt Kilimanjaro to monitor the receding ice glaciers on the mountain.
African nations through African Union (A.U) Commission of infrastructure and energy under the division of infrastructure and tourism needs to be cognizant to the fact that nature based tourism in Africa has become vulnerable to climate change. African Union can partner with the Caribbean islands nations in developing climate resilient policies and programmes. Caribbean islands are dependent on marine and coastal resources and they attracted over 29 million visitors in 2016. But the sector is being battered by climate change due to frequent hurricanes that have destroyed nature based attractions and infrastructure in the region. Through Caribbean Tourism Association the region’s tourism entities will be supported with policy formulation, the promotion of best practices in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, and the development of tools to enhance the tourism sector’s knowledge and awareness of disaster risk reduction strategies and the potential impacts of climate variability and climate change.
(Picture by Tony Wild via Sam Dindi)
Tourism stakeholders have to take climate change seriously in a bid to save Nature based tourism from getting destroyed and this will only happen if they consolidate their efforts and embrace innovative home grown climate adaptation technologies that will make the industry more resilient for the foreseeable future.